I’m still waiting for Baseball America to list their 2013 handbook. They have revealed that the Cards have the #1 farm system in all of MLB, and the results will be posted when I have the full list. So, so far all I have is for 2013 is:
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Seattle Mariners
The Cards have moved up from 27th to 17th to 5th from 2010 to 2012. Here is the list, with 2011 below it, and 2010 included as a side note in the 2011 rankings.
1. Toronto Blue Jays: Eight B+ prospects with ridiculous depth behind them.
2. San Diego Padres: Incredible depth after the winter trades pushes this system almost to the top.
3. Texas Rangers: Continues to churn out talent, with much more percolating at the lower levels. I do not give the Rangers farm system credit for Yu Darvish. They would rank number one if I gave them credit for Darvish, but in my mind that is unfair to the other teams: I see him as a major league free agent, not a prospect.
4. Seattle Mariners: Jesus Montero plus three elite pitching prospects and others who can improve.
5. St. Louis Cardinals: They don’t get talked about as much as other teams, but they have a Grade A prospect in Shelby Miller and a lot of pitching depth behind him. I think this system is underrated.
6. Kansas City Royals: They slipped from last year’s top spot, showing the volatility of pitching prospects, but heavy investments in draft and foreign players should continue to show dividends.
7. Tampa Bay Rays: Impact depth behind Matt Moore has slipped but this is still a robust organization.
8. Atlanta Braves: Lots of pitching at the top, but they need more hitters.
9. Arizona Diamondbacks: Another system with lots of pitching but not much hitting, even more extreme than Atlanta.
10. Oakland Athletics: Trades helped this system a lot, would have ranked much lower otherwise.
11. Boston Red Sox: Large group of B- types who can improve. Hitting stronger than pitching at this point.
12. Pittsburgh Pirates: Heavy draft investments slowly-but-steadily raising the talent level in this system.
13. Colorado Rockies: Middle of the pack at this stage, two definite impact talents and a large group of C+ types who can improve.
14. Washington Nationals: The big trade with Oakland tore the top off this farm system. You still have Bryce Harper and some interesting players in the B- range. Would have ranked much higher without the trade.
15. New York Mets: Solid depth in pitching, especially at the top with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jeurys Familia.
16. New York Yankees: You can make a case to rank them as high as 12 or 13. Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are strong Grade B prospects for me and there is a nice balance between hitting and pitching.
17. Minnesota Twins: Another middle of the pack organization, fairly balanced between hitting and pitching, some potential regulars with several solid role players.
18. Los Angeles Angels: Not terrible, there is some depth behind Mike Trout but a lot of questions, too, and most of the tool-heavy bets in recent drafts haven’t paid off as well as Trout has.
19. Baltimore Orioles: You have Machado and Bundy at the top but it falls off quickly after that.
20. Chicago Cubs: Another middle-of-the-pack system with a lot of B-/C+ type prospects. Could rank much higher next year if some of the lower-level guys pan out.
21. Cincinnati Reds: Heart of this system torn out by Mat Latos trade but there is enough at the lower levels that I think they can recharge quickly.
22. Los Angeles Dodgers: Some intriguing pitching depth, much of it fairly close to the majors, but not much hitting.
23. Detroit Tigers: Thins out very quickly after Jacob Turner and Nick Castellanos.
24. Philadelphia Phillies: There is some interesting pitching but tools guys not developing as hoped.
25. Houston Astros: Gradually improving, and there are several players at the lower levels with a chance to develop. Could rank much higher a year from now.
26. San Francisco Giants: This system has thinned out but is not hopeless. Pitching needs a recharge.
27. Cleveland Indians: Of all the teams ranked low, the Indians have the greatest chance to improve in the coming years. There is a lot of talent at the lower levels, but most of it is in the C+ or “Grade C with higher potential” category right now because it is so far away. It would not surprise me to see the Indians in the Top 10 by 2014.
28. Milwaukee Brewers: There is some talent on the pitching side but hitting looks thin.
29. Miami Marlins: Relatively even balance between hitting and pitching, but not a lot of impact coming up.
30. Chicago White Sox: You have two B+ pitching prospects in Addison Reed and Nestor Molina and some other raw materials for a decent bullpen. Hitting is a disaster. I like Tyler Saladino but I have huge doubts about their other hitting prospects.
This is the 2011 list of all 30 MLB teams. I think the Cardinals trading away pieces for Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa where a big part of why they ranked so low, and I’m not in total agreement with where they are on this list, but here is the list nontheless. I will include updates after the 2011 draft.
- 1. Kansas City Royals | 2010 Rank: 12 | Players in Top 100: 9
There is no contest. Not only do the Royals have easily the most talented farm system in baseball, but they have one of the best crops of talent of any organization in recent memory. With front-of-the-rotation lefties like Mike Montgomery, John Lamb and Danny Duffy, and middle-of-the-order bats like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Wil Myers headlining their system, they truly have no equal.
- 2. Atlanta Braves | 2010 Rank: 4 | Players in Top 100: 6
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise when you find the Braves near the top of these types of rankings. Somehow each year they find a way to graduate players to the big leagues yet still maintain outstanding depth at all levels of the minors. Julio Teheran is baseball’s best pitching prospect, Freddie Freeman appears to be the first baseman of the future and the low-level talent just keeps coming.
- 3. Tampa Bay Rays | 2010 Rank: 1 | Players in Top 100: 5
The recent haul they received in exchange for Matt Garza definitely gives them a boost, but the Rays were going to be a top-10 system regardless. Chris Archer gives them yet another high-upside arm in a system that already features Matt Moore and Alex Colome. Hak-Ju Lee gives them yet another toolsy athlete to go along with players like Desmond Jennings, Justin O’Conner and Josh Sale.
- 4. New York Yankees | 2010 Rank: 15 | Players in Top 100: 5
It’s been awhile since the Yankees could legitimately claim to have one of baseball’s best farm systems. This year they are undoubtedly part of that group. Jesus Montero is the best catching prospect in the game, and their collection of young arms — headlined by Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman — stacks up with any in baseball. There is more coming from the lower levels.
- 5. Toronto Blue Jays | 2010 Rank: 26 | Players in Top 100: 5
There has been a change in approach in Toronto — hats off to the Jays for building up their farm system in a hurry. They have big-league-ready talent like Kyle Drabek and J.P. Arencibia as well as guys on the horizon like Adeiny Hechavarria and Zach Stewart. Better yet, there’s plenty of other talent backing those guys up. Even as they begin graduating some prospects to the majors, there’s plenty more on the way, particularly from a strong 2010 draft class.
- 6. Cincinnati Reds | 2010 Rank: 13 | Players in Top 100: 4
Aroldis Chapman still having prospect status is a pretty good place to start for any farm system. But beyond that, having studs like Billy Hamilton, Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso on the way sure doesn’t hurt either. The Reds have talent up and down the ladder as they continue to draft smart and do their share of work in the international market.
- 7. Philadelphia Phillies | 2010 Rank: 17 | Players in Top 100: 4
You have to give credit to an organization that, despite making trades to better its big-league roster, manages to keep talent steadily flowing through the minor-league system. The Phillies place heavy bets on athletes with tools and power arms and it continues to pay off. Both Brody Colvin and Jarred Cosart show frontline-type stuff, and players like Jonathan Singleton, Sebastian Valle and, of course, Domonic Brown look to be at least better-than-average regulars in the major leagues.
- 8. Los Angeles Angels | 2010 Rank: 20 | Players in Top 100: 5
Some might say this is a little high for the Angels, but if you buy into their low-level talent like I do, it’s just about right. It sure doesn’t hurt to have baseball’s No. 1 prospect, Mike Trout, in your system either. They racked up talent in the 2010 draft and have sleeper arms like Garrett Richards and Fabio Martinez who could break out in a big way in 2011.
- 9. Texas Rangers | 2010 Rank: 2 | Players in Top 100: 3
For most teams you’d have more doubts about lower-level talent. With the Rangers’ recent track record of player development, though, it’s easier to place more value on what they have toward the bottom of their system. They’ve graduated a lot of talent, but there appears to be another wave coming.
- 10. Minnesota Twins | 2010 Rank: 14 | Players in Top 100: 5
Even when the Twins’ system isn’t getting a tremendous amount of attention, they still seem to graduate under-the-radar talent to the majors. Well, the machine keeps on working in Minnesota and there are more young players on the horizon, like right-hander Kyle Gibson and toolsy outfielder Aaron Hicks.
- 11. Cleveland Indians | 2010 Rank: 5 | Players in Top 100: 4
Despite graduating one of baseball’s best prospects in Carlos Santana, the Indians’ farm systems remains deep up and down the ladder. Aside from Lonnie Chisenhall, they aren’t loaded with blue-chip prospects, but what they do have is a surplus of future above-average big-league contributors like Jason Kipnis, Alex White and Nick Hagadone. With the addition of 2010 draftee Drew Pomeranz, they could have another blue-chipper on the way.
- 12. Colorado Rockies | 2010 Rank: 10 | Players in Top 100: 4
Christian Friedrich may have slipped in 2010, but just about every other part of the Rockies farm system improved. Wilin Rosario continued to show off his cannon arm behind the dish and swing the bat well, while Tyler Matzek emerged as the frontline pitching prospect they hoped he’d be.
- 13. San Diego Padres | 2010 Rank: 30 | Players in Top 100: 4
The Padres absolutely got a huge lift from the Adrian Gonzalez deal. It gave them Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes. But their system was pretty solid even before that trade. With Simon Castro and Kelly leading the way in the pitching department, the Padres’ future looks bright.
- 14. Boston Red Sox | 2010 Rank: 11 | Players in Top 100: 2
The aforementioned Gonzalez deal definitely hurts the Boston farm system, but they do have plenty of reinforcements, including Jose Iglesias and Anthony Ranaudo. Iglesias appears to be the shortstop of the future and Ranaudo looks poised to move up the ladder quickly on the mound.
- 15. Washington Nationals | 2010 Rank: 16 | Players in Top 100: 4
They may have graduated Stephen Strasburg, but now they have another super prospect in Bryce Harper. That said, don’t underestimate the lesser-known talents in their system like Sammy Solis, Danny Espinosa and Derek Norris. Washington’s system is much more than one big-name prospect.
- 16. Seattle Mariners | 2010 Rank: 19 | Players in Top 100: 3
Seattle loaded up on high-upside talent in last year’s draft, and it is now developing the depth to put behind headliners Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda. Having those two leading the way is crucial. The pair is as impressive a duo as you’ll find in the minors.
- 17. St. Louis Cardinals | 2010 Rank: 27 | Players in Top 100: 2
The Cardinals aren’t known for taking high school pitchers, but it sure looks like they picked the right time to grab one in selecting Shelby Miller in the first round of the 2009 draft. St. Louis is building a solid amount of depth behind Miller and overall appears to have a system on the rise.
- 18. Arizona Diamondbacks | 2010 Rank: 22 | Players in Top 100: 3
Arizona has some outstanding young bats to lean on in Matt Davidson, Marc Krauss, Bobby Borchering and others, but the D’backs have some work to do in terms of depth. Jarrod Parker looks ready to graduate and contribute in the majors and Tyler Skaggs looks to be on track as well, so they do have some headliners to on which to hang their hat.
- 19. Los Angeles Dodgers | 2010 Rank: 25 | Players in Top 100: 1
The Dodgers are ranked somewhat low, but the strange thing is that they have all the talent necessary to be a very strong farm system. There’s no doubt that it was a tough year for many of the Dodgers’ top prospects, including Ethan Martin and Chris Withrow. They could bounce back in 2011, but until they do this is where this system belongs.
- 20. San Francisco Giants | 2010 Rank: 8 | Players in Top 100: 2
The two players at the top of the Giants’ list of prospects are two names any organization would be proud to have. The world was introduced to Brandon Belt in 2010, and he appears to be an All-Star in the making. Zack Wheeler is already showing front-of-the-rotation stuff. Beyond them, however, the Giants’ system thins out significantly.
- 21. Chicago Cubs | 2010 Rank: 18 | Players in Top 100: 2
Make no mistake about it, losing Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee really hurt the Cubs’ depth. That doesn’t make the Matt Garza trade a bad one, but those are two outstanding talents to lose. They do have some good lower-level depth, however, and could rebound quickly.
- 22. Pittsburgh Pirates | 2010 Rank: 28 | Players in Top 100: 2
Of all the lower-ranked teams, it might be the Pirates that have the best chance of making a big leap in the rankings next year. With superb new pitching talents like Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie and Luis Heredia now in the fold, the Pirates’ minor-league depth is clearly on the rise.
- 23. Houston Astros | 2010 Rank: 29 | Players in Top 100: 1
It’s still a long road back for the Astros’ farm system, but they are headed in the right direction. Jordan Lyles is the on the cusp of helping their big-league rotation, and they have started making some higher upside draft picks. Let’s give them credit for taking steps toward righting the ship.
- 24. Detroit Tigers | 2010 Rank: 21 | Players in Top 100: 2
The Tigers may not be overflowing with young talent right now, but they do have Jacob Turner and with him they are in a good position. They aren’t lacking in power arms either, but the Tigers do lack pitchers with the total package. The way they’ve spent in the past on the draft is a good indicator that they could bounce back quickly.
- 25. Baltimore Orioles | 2010 Rank: 6 | Players in Top 100: 2
The Orioles are not particularly deep right now in terms of minor-league talent. What they do have, however, are two legitimate blue-chip prospects. Zach Britton and Manny Machado both have that type of talent. The good news is that Britton is not far from the major leagues.
- 26. Chicago White Sox | 2010 Rank: 23 | Players in Top 100: 2
Chicago has an outstanding headliner for its system and that’s more than some clubs on this list can claim. Chris Sale made an immediate impact in 2010 and figures to play an even bigger role in 2011. What’s behind him is the bigger question mark for the White Sox.
- 27. New York Mets | 2010 Rank: 24 | Players in Top 100: 3
By taking Matt Harvey with their top pick last year, the Mets took a step in the right direction. Harvey coupled with Wilmer Flores makes for a decent duo at the top of the system, but the depth is still very much lacking for New York and it’s going to take some time to build that back up to a respectable level. The Mets are headed in the right direction, though.
- 28. Oakland Athletics | 2010 Rank: 3 | Players in Top 100: 3
If there’s one thing we know about Oakland, it is that there is always a lot of turnover. The A’s build a strong system, graduate the players, leave their system empty and then they build it right back up again. They are in that building phase as we speak.
- 29. Florida Marlins | 2010 Rank: 7 | Players in Top 100: 1
This is not familiar territory for the Marlins and I imagine they’ll get their system back on track quickly. They graduated one of baseball’s best young players, Mike Stanton, in 2010 so that certainly doesn’t help them in these rankings. They simply lack high-impact talent right now.
- 30. Milwaukee Brewers | 2010 Rank: 9 | Players in Top 100: 1
The Brewers’ system wasn’t all that impressive even heading into the offseason. After raiding their crop of talent in trades for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, there is really not much elite talent left. They are trying to win now, and you can’t fault them for that, but that approach has certainly left them with some major holes to fill in their farm system.